What This Situation Is Like for Parents


It’s hard enough to be a parent all day long when kids do listen to you.

But when they look you in the face and intentionally defy you… anger washes over you for so many reasons.

Defiance is not acceptable. Not only do you need your kids to listen to you, but you also need to be be sure that they listen to anyone who is in charge, now and in the future.

There is no way you can let them get away with this outright defiance. 


What This Situation Is Like for Children


Children have an innate need for control… and stimulation.

All day long they’re being told what to do — they’re told when to be somewhere, how to act when they’re there, and what they can and cannot do. They hear “no” and “don’t do that” all day long. 

And because of their need for engagement, they are also attracted to anything that will lead to a reaction (or any other type of stimulation).

Sometimes children are tired of being told what NOT to do, and when they see an opportunity to gain a moment of power… and stimulation… and they take it.

Unfortunately, children’s follow their impulses and don’t always consider the outcome. This is especially true when they are in Yuck and therefore not accessing the rational, cooperative part of their brain.



How It Usually Goes

When A Child Looks You In the Face and Defies You



Jimmy’s dad just told him to stop jumping on the couch. When Jimmy hears that, he turns to his dad, looks him in the face, and continues jumping. 


Dad: Jimmy! I just told you to STOP jumping.

Jimmy (ignores Dad).

Dad: Jimmy! You stop this minute!

Jimmy (keeps jumping and smiles).

Dad: Oh you think this is funny? If you don’t stop right now, you will NOT watch TV for the rest of the day.

Jimmy (laughs again):

Dad (grabs Jimmy from the couch): You will listen to me when I talk to you!!

Jimmy (starts screaming).

Dad: No more TV! And you go think about what you did! (He puts Jimmy in time out.)

Jimmy (starts to run away, and Dad spends the next 10 minutes forcing Jimmy to stay in his time out spot.)



How It Could Go

When A Child Looks You In the Face and Defies You 



Jimmy’s dad just told him to stop jumping on the couch. When Jimmy hears that, he turns to his dad, looks him in the face, and continues jumping. 

Dad: Jimmy, we have a rule of no jumping on the couch.

Jimmy (ignores Dad).


Jimmy’s dad notices that Jimmy isn’t listening to him, and that frustrates him.

He also knows that the only way to get Jimmy to listen is to stay in control and stay calm. If he does anything else, things will only get worse. 


Dad: You really look like you are trying to get some energy out! Want to do some jumping jacks with me? (Dad starts to do jumping jacks.)



Instead of focusing on Jimmy’s lack of listening, his dad focuses on what he thinks is causing the behavior. He knows that once he gets to the root of the behavior, he will be able to stop it more effectively. 


Jimmy (keeps jumping and smiles. He does not do jumping jacks).

Dad: You know what? I can’t let you keep jumping. That is our rule AND it is not safe. Do you want to stop, or should I come over and get you?



Because Jimmy’s dad understood that he was either missing a need or in Yuck, he tried to correct behavior by offering him a tool to be successful — giving him a sense of control over the situation. 


Jimmy: I’m gonna keep jumping.

Dad (calmly): OK, then I’m going to come over and get you. (He picks up Jimmy.)

Jimmy (starts moving around trying to get out of Dad’s grasp): Let me go!

Dad (staying calm): I will let you go if you show me you can listen. Are you ready to do that?

Jimmy: No!

Dad (continuing to hold on to Jimmy firmly but not roughly): I know you’re upset now. I’m going to hang on to you for a little while. I’m right here with you though.



Jimmy’s dad recognizes that Jimmy will NOT do what he is supposed to do when he is in Yuck.

Therefore, Jimmy’s dad re-states his boundary and allows Jimmy to get frustrated (and release his Yuck) so that he can do what he has been asked to do.   


Jimmy (resists for a bit but then stops. He eventually leans in to his dad.)

Dad: Are you ready to do something different now? No more jumping on the couch?

Jimmy: No more jumping on the couch.


How to Make the In-the-Moment Strategy Work


The “proactive deposits” discussed in the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap will make all of the difference in how this situation plays out in the moment.

If you want to be able to handle the situation when your child defies you, remember:


Depositing into CALM

Jimmy’s dad will not be able to stay calm if

a.) his own biological or emotional “needs accounts” are low or

b.) he has the expectation that Jimmy will automatically obey everything he is asked to do.

When he makes sure his own needs are met and sets realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, Jimmy’s dad is more likely to be able to stay calm.

See Step 1 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap for help meeting your needs and setting expectations proactively so you can stay calm.


Depositing into CONNECT

Jimmy’s dad will only be able to connect if

a.) he respects that all behavior has a reason and

b.) he understands those reasons (in this case, Jimmy may need some stimulation and/or a sense of power and control).

See Step 2 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap to learn the reasons for children’s behavior so you can connect more effectively.


Depositing into CORRECT

Jimmy’s dad will only be able to correct behavior by offering a tool if

a.) He has demonstrated consistently in the past that when he tells his son to stop doing something, he means it.

b.) He has made enough deposits into the relationship that telling him to stop doing something does not make Jimmy want to defy him more.

When he demonstrates that he means what he says and when he makes deposits into Jimmy’s emotional needs PROACTIVELY, he will be able to correct more effectively.

See Step 3 of the Parenting by Deposit Roadmap  to learn more about improving your influence so you can correct behavior.